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HANSON v. SANGAMON COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPT.

January 28, 1998

STEVE HANSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE SANGAMON COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, NEIL WILLIAMSON, SANGAMON COUNTY SHERIFF, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, AND THE CIRCUIT COURT OF SANGAMON COUNT, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard Mills, District Judge.

  OPINION

Plaintiff, who is deaf, was arrested for possession of cannabis.

Although the Sheriff's Department knew that he was deaf and although the department had hearing impaired equipment available, the department failed to provide Plaintiff with any means with which to communicate with friends and/or relative in order to post bond.

Has Plaintiff stated a cause of action upon which relief can be granted under these circumstances?

Yes.

I. FACTS ALLEGED IN THE FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT

Plaintiff, Steve Hanson, is profoundly deaf. He has a limited ability to read lips and a limited ability to understand written communications. He primarily relies upon the use of sign language to communicate.

On June 4, 1995, at approximately 2:00 a.m., officers from the Springfield Police Department arrested Hanson for possession of cannabis. At that time, Hanson informed the officers that he is deaf. However, the officers did not attempt to communicate with him; rather, the officers placed him into a police van with approximately eight to ten other arrestees and transported him and the others to the Sangamon County Jail.

While being processed at the jail for arrest, officers of the Sangamon County Sheriff's Department verbally told Hanson that he was being charged with the possession of cannabis. However, the officers did not advise Hanson of the amount of bail which he would need to be released pending his trial. Although the officers informed Hanson that he could make one telephone call, Hanson informed the officers that due to his deafness, he was unable to use a conventional telephone. In spite of his inability to use a conventional telephone and his requests for alternative assistance, the Sangamon County Sheriff's Department failed to provide Hanson with access to an interpreter, to a text telephone device ("TDD"), or to a TDD directory. Throughout the night, Hanson attempted to notify the officers of his need for alternative assistance in contacting friends and/or relatives, but it was to no avail.

By 6:00 a.m. that same morning, all other arrestees who were transported to and processed for arrest at the jail along with Hanson had been released. At some point after 6:00 a.m., Officer Martha Brown assisted Hanson in making a telephone call to his roommate and to his neighbor for the purpose of bringing money to bail him out of jail. Hanson was not allowed to use an accessible telephone in private or in a confidential manner, however. After relying on Officer Brown for his telephone communications, the Sangamon County Sheriff's Department released Hanson approximately thirteen hours after his arrest and nine hours after all other persons transported and processed along with him had been released.

On July 7, 1997, the Circuit Court of Sangamon County found Hanson guilty on the charge of possession of cannabis. Accordingly, Hanson has initiated the above-captioned case claiming that Defendants have violated his rights.

II. LEGAL STANDARD FOR MOTIONS TO DISMISS

In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court "must accept well pleaded allegations of the complaint as true. In addition, the Court must view these allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Gomez v. Illinois State Bd. of Educ., 811 F.2d 1030, 1039 (7th Cir. 1987). Although a complaint is not required to contain a detailed outline of the claim's basis, it nevertheless "must contain either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements necessary to sustain a recovery under some viable legal theory." Car Carriers, Inc. v. Ford Motor Co., 745 F.2d 1101, 1106 (7th Cir. 1984). Mere conclusions, without supporting factual allegations, are insufficient to support a claim for relief. Cohen v. Illinois Institute of Technology, 581 F.2d 658, 663 (7th Cir. 1978). Dismissal should not be ...


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